Whenever the subject of my cancer comes up in conversation, my daughter always says that she saved my life. She says it without hesitation, just like when she states that she is hungry or thirsty. While some people hear her and think she is exaggerating or imagining the facts, the truth is, she really did save my life.
I waited until I had been married to my husband Cameron for seven years before considering becoming pregnant. I was 35 years old, and concerned about some of the possible ramifications of being a mom at that age. Once we both decided to have a child, I was pregnant within three months and three pregnancy tests. We were thrilled, shocked and nervous all at the same time, and couldn’t have been any happier! I spent time rubbing my tummy, talking to my belly and wondering what kind of mom I would be. I wanted to be the best mom my child could have. My hopes grew as my tummy became larger. Luckily, my pregnancy was smooth up until the delivery. My daughter, Lily, had to be delivered via C-section because she was breech. I always try to look at the events of life through positive eyes and joked that at least she would have a round head!
From the first time I held her in my arms, my life became all about my baby Lily and doing what is best for her. I fell in love as soon as I laid eyes on her. Cameron and I felt so blessed and couldn’t wait to watch her grow up and teach her everything we knew. In my new mommy bliss I had no idea of the serious, life-threatening times that were to come.
When Lily was three and a half months old, I was diagnosed with the shattering diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. My doctor explained the shocking news that if I didn’t start treatment immediately, I only had 15 months to live. Imagine the fear my husband and I felt when we realized that I might not see my infant daughter grow up. My husband Cameron was a rock, thank God, and listened carefully to the many treatment options. He chose the most drastic treatment option, because it had the best chance that I would live to help raise our child and see her grow. Cams chose a specialist in Boston who is considered to be the foremost specialist in treating mesothelioma.
We traveled to the east coast, where I had my entire left lung, the lining of my heart and diaphragm removed. Then I took about 3 months to recover; 18 days in the hospital, two weeks in an outpatient facility and then two months at my parents’ home in South Dakota. Lily remained at my parents’ the entire time Cams and I were in Boston. That was by far the hardest month of my life.
Although my journey has had its ups and downs, I made it. I’m here today because of Lily. I chose to fight the mesothelioma cancer to live for my daughter. So it’s nothing short of accurate to say my daughter did save my life.
A great BIG thank you to Heather Von St. James for sharing her story with us today! To read more about her story, visit her at The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog. Heather has dedicated her life’s work to spreading the word about mesothelioma via her own personal story. In her own words: Well, here I am, almost 7 years later, minus one lung, a rib and half of a diaphragm, but alive and well.. I’m a survivor, but not only surviving, but thriving… I love life, and am passionate about mesothelioma awareness and patient advocacy. I was given a 2nd chance at life, and I want to give back as much as possible.. Inspiring others, and giving them hope is what I love…thanks for joining me on this journey… 🙂